May 12, 2020

Drugs, allergies and sperm quality – What’s the link?

You are ready to start a family? The link is the negative effect of certain medications/drugs on male fertility and ability to conceive naturally. Certain over-the-counter or prescribed medications or certain legal or illegal substances can have a negative effect on sperm quality, hence your fertility. Men who wish to father a child should talk to their doctor before starting a new medicine or continuing treatment. If your doctor thinks your medication may be a barrier to your fertility, it may be a good idea to stop it or try a different one.

In general, the healthier you are, the healthier your sperm will be. And we already know that a number of things, like being overweight, smoking, binge drinking and using recreational drugs, can affect sperm quality and therefore interfere with male fertility.

But what about drugs or certain substances?

According to the following three specialists:

  1. Joshua M. Hurwitz, MD, Reproductive endocrinologist and Partner at the Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut
  2. Mark Surrey, MD, Co-founder and Medical Director of the Southern California Reproductive Center
  3. Shona Murray, MD, Obstetrics and Gynecologist, and Director of Advanced Reproductive Medicine at the University of Colorado in Denver

Most drugs that affect sperm will reduce production, resulting in a low sperm count, but some others can affect the way sperm works. A low sperm count means that a man will have less sperm available to fertilize an egg, and if the mobility of the sperm (its ability to move) is reduced, the sperm will have trouble reaching the egg. The length of time a drug affects a man's sperm varies depending on the drug.

Over-the-counter medications

Fortunately, if taken in the right dose and used as intended, the most common over-the-counter medications should not reduce sperm count. However, since there are many over-the-counter medications and remedies that have not been tested, it is best to play it safe.

NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) - A recent study found that men who took 1200 mg (600 mg twice a day) of ibuprofen per day developed a hormonal condition linked to reduced fertility (and which usually only occurs in older men)

Antihistamines - According to a study by researchers from the Institute of Biology and Experimental Medicine in Buenos Aires, Argentina, antihistamines against allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, could decrease the quality sperm.

Natural or Herbal Remedies - Just because something has a "natural" or "herbal" label, does not guarantee that it will be safe (or even effective). The problem with natural or herbal remedies is that they don't usually undergo the same scientific tests and aren't as tightly regulated as drugs

Prescription drugs or other substances

Steroids/Testosterone Therapy - Testosterone completely stops sperm production. Testosterone supplements in any form will drop your sperm count, whether it's illegal anabolic steroids at the gym or a testosterone replacement prescribed by your doctor.

Chemotherapy - Chemotherapy therapies are another drug that clears up the sperm count. Natural fertility can return within one to five years after stopping it; however, it is not clear what damage is to the sperm DNA. It is therefore recommended that a man wait at least two years after chemotherapy before attempting pregnancy.

Blood pressure medications - In addition to causing decreased libido and erectile dysfunction, some medications have also been linked to decreased sperm volume, sperm concentration, and mobility.

Opioids - Not only is it possible that these pain relievers can cause erection and ejaculation problems, but they can also lower testosterone levels and sperm production.

Antidepressants - It is well known that many antidepressants, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can lower a person's libido. In addition, SSRIs can have a negative effect on sperm production.

Biologics therapies - Used in the treatment of autoimmune disorders, such as lupus and ulcerative colitis, some can reduce sperm count and also damage sperm DNA. It takes about six months for the sperm to return to normal after stopping the treatment.

In conclusion

If you want to have children naturally, you should talk to your doctor before you start a new medicine or continue treatment.


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